When you live in the Middle East, weird is pretty much a way of life. For example, they donít play football here. Whatís up with that? Maybe because the guys are all wearing long white robes and sandals, I donít know. Instead, they play futbol, which isnít football. Itís really soccer. But not in their robes. If you look hard enough, you might find a ragtag baseball team, but double check that theyíre not actually playing softball. So, I guess I shouldnít have been surprised when my youngest son came home from school to tell me he had made the cricket team.
Cricket? Okay, wasnít Pinocchioís little friend, Jiminy, a cricket? Buddy Holley sang with the Crickets before it all went down in flames. Youíll have to take my word on this, but in the Pinocchio/Jiminy match up, my kid would be the one smoking cigars with the donkeys, not the one playing the part of the conscience and voice of reason. While he also has many amazing talents, singing back up is not one of them. So obviously we are in a brand new world of cricket.
Naturally, my first question was if he even knew how to play cricket or the first thing about it. The true, red-blooded American boy responds, ďHey, itís got a pitcher and a bat. How hard can it be?Ē Okay, I see why he made the team.
In Saudi Arabia, sports donít have a season. They have a few practices and a tournament one weekend. The end. Then you move on to tennis or tiddlywinks or something else. After watching the tournament with teams from all over the country, I actually learned a thing or two (but I wonít go so far as to say I learned three) about cricket.
There are 8 guys on the field. After that, it starts getting confusing. The pitcher is really a bowler. There are two batters at one time. The bat actually looks like one of those big, flat-faced paddles that the vice principal at my junior high used to administer swats. After you hit the ball, you donít drop the bat, but take it with you as you run back and forth between two sticks. You can actually lose points on your turn. Unless you have JJ Watt on your cricket team and then you automatically win because everyone else surrendered.
June 6, 2013
Because the truth is that once youíve been tagged by an airborne bird bomb, you have to accept itís not coming off any time soon. If you completely empty all your windshield wiper fluid immediately after impact, you might stand a small chance of regaining limited visibility. However, ongoing wind shear from continued driving plus Texas heat are only going to bake it on like ceramic.
I can check ďSpend Time in the Torment of HellĒ off my personal bucket list since I have just had a massive garage sale last weekend. If given a choice, I would rather be disemboweled with a grapefruit spoon than to have a garage sale, and yet I have just had the garage sale to end them all. Literally. I publicly declare right here and now that I will never do that again. The only way that my belongings will ever be displayed on card tables with tiny price tags on them will be after Iím dead and my family is liquidating everything for beer money.
Because we have recently sold our house in Lake Jackson, I flew back from the Middle East to clear everything out. Fifteen years of accumulation for four people had to be reduced to a 10x10 storage unit in a matter of days. Youíd be amazed at what you really have when you have to physically touch every single item and make a decision about it. My grandmotherís antique table gets to stay. The bag of human teeth did not. Oh stop it! I am not Hannibal Lecter! Every mother saves their childrenís baby teeth. Iím just not willing to pay for storage space in San Antonio for a bag of my childrenís baby teeth. Itís not as if theyíre going to want them back.
Just a warning to others, if you put it on Facebook and then post an ad in The Source Weekly that youíre selling just about everything be ready for the feeding frenzy of people that want to buy your stuff that will hit you like a tsunami. I think some of these people would have chipped the paint off the wall if I said Iíd sell it for $1.50. (Of course, theyíd only offer me a quarter for it!)
I washed up the next morning thinking I would scramble a couple of eggs for breakfast only to find that I had sold the pans. My options for breakfast were reduced to a chicken biscuit at Whataburger or cracking a raw egg directly into the back of my throat. Iíve been to a place most people never have to go to because someone Iíve known for over ten years bought a package of toilet paper from me that only had one roll missing. Some things just cause a greater burden than they cure.
Contact Jean at firstname.lastname@example.org
Much Ado Archives
May 16, 2013
We all have to accept that there are things in life that we just canít control, like the weather and death and who sits next to you on airplanes. There is no greater roll of the dice than getting that boarding pass and stepping onto an airplane. And chances are itís not going to turn out well. No wonder so many people have a fear of flying. I donít think it has anything at all to do with crashing, but everything to do with who is going to be crammed into that seat next to them.
Letís face it, weíve all had those flights, the ones where youíre sitting next to the guy with adenoids the size of basketballs who snores at a volume just slightly greater than that of the jet engine just outside the window for the entire flight. Or youíre wedged into the middle seat between two armrest hogs who want to do a rib count on you with their elbows all the way from La Guardia to Omaha. If your flight is going to be stuck on the tarmac for an extra three hours, it will only happen when youíre sitting next to the person who refuses to bathe as a statement against the unethical treatment of animals in soap and deodorant testing.
I think most airlines takes special pains to sprinkle the small children and babies evenly throughout a flight in order to make sure every passenger has an equal opportunity to be stared at over the seat back in front of them, to be kicked from behind for four solid hours or to have their sanity called into question by the ear-shredding scream of a teething 8-month old who canít clear their ears.
It never fails that if youíre exhausted, youíll sit next to a motor-mouth that wants to explain why they disagree with their doctorís diagnosis and justify their refusal to properly take their medications. Or if youíre bored, your seatmate will only be on the flight because they are migrating from their summer cave to their winter burrow and merely snarl at your attempts for polite conversation to pass the time.
So to the nice British gentleman who drew the seat number next to mine on that recent international flight, thank you for being normal. Well, as normal as the British can be!
May 9, 2013
I grew up knowing that sunny days were sweeping the clouds away, because I was on my way to where the air was clear. I could tell you how to get, how to get to Sesame Street. I learned from Kermit the Frog that it wasnít easy being green, and how to count from Ernie and Bert. Sesame Street was a great place, but all that has changed. There are some seriously crabby people there now, and Iím not talking about Oscar the Grouch living in a trash can!
Last month, Cookie Monster was arrested in Times Square for shoving a 2-year old. Despite reports that Cookie was enraged when the childís mother refused to pay him a few bucks for the photo she took of him with the kid, I think thereís more to it. I think the 2-year old made a misguided play for the chocolate chips. If thatís really what happened, then itís an open and shut case. Iíd probably shove a 2-year old, too.
Unfortunately, this is not the only case of Muppet gone Mad. Last year, it was Elmo who went postal. The ďemotionally disturbedĒ Elmo was harassing tourists at the Central Park Zoo, screaming obscenities and threats until NYPD carried him off in an ambulance. Again. Seems Arrest Me Elmo has a history of public meltdowns. Yeah, itís cute when Big Bird has a big, hairy, invisible friend named Snuffy, but, in Elmoís case, Iím thinking a strong prescription medication monitored by a health professional might be in order here.
Iím concerned about the possibility of this trend continuing. Whatís next? Miss Piggy gets picked up for prostitution? Super Grover goes to the dark side and starts working with the forces of Evil? Seriously, if you canít trust a fuzzy hand puppet to walk the straight line of righteousness, who can you trust?!
Personally, I think after all of this, Iím changing my address off of Sesame Street and moving to Mr. Rogerís neighborhood. I seriously doubt that King Friday will knife me in my sleep or develop nuclear weapons targeted at the West Coast. (Google King Friday, kids. Youíre too young to know that one.) Oh, and todayís column is brought to you by the letters J and C and the number 9.
May 2, 2013
I took four semesters of Spanish in college because I had to in order to graduate. I spent a lot of my pizza-and-beer money on tutors to get through those classes, and only passed that final semester because I brought donuts to the early morning final. Thatís the truth. Donuts. For the whole class. It was worth it for the college diploma and the knowledge that Iíd never have to face down another foreign language again. Until now.
Because Iíve moved to the Middle East, Iím expected to ďhablo Arabico.Ē Okay, can we just stop right there? If Iím a complete wash out in Spanish, a language that is tied to really good food and is practically the second language of the State of Texas, how am I expected to learn Arabic? Iíd have better luck opening a snow cone stand over here!
Every week our Arabic tutor, an extremely tolerant man from Egypt who couldnít possibly be paid enough to take on this Herculean task, comes to our house to try and teach us a language that is just a smidgeon less difficult than Mandarin Chinese. After two full years, all I got out of Spanish was the ability to order a couple of beers and find the bathroom. Usually in that order. But they donít have beer over here, so Iím trying to just learn other basic survival phrases, like ďHelp me!Ē ďDo you speak English?Ē and ďHey, does your camel bite?Ē
I really am making an honest effort to learn, so I make flashcards with everything written the way it sounds. Then when I want to ask the man at the fish market, ďHow much is the squid?Ē I can just pull out the flashcard and mangle the pronunciation to the point that I say who knows what and the fishmonger just gives me whatever I point at to make me go away.
In all fairness, I have learned the word for ďyes,Ē which is pronounced ďnom.Ē Like the noise the PacMan makes: nom nom nom nom. And no is simply, ďla.Ē Lalalalalala is not just for those times when you donít know the words to the song, itís now great for the times you donít know the words to anything! Now how do you say, ďWhere can I find a good burrito in this country?Ē
April 25, 2013
You donít have to be Dr. Phil to realize there a few things that you just donít say to women. Ever. Too often you see a man stumble blindly into these areas only to draw away a stump where his head once was, while nearby is a woman looking like she just stepped out of Stephen Kingís book ďCarrie,Ē all covered in blood, her eyes rolled back to the whites and setting everyone in the room on fire.
When dessert has been set down in front of a woman, donít ever ask her if she really needs to eat that. Dessert is darn near a religious experience for most women. Of course she needs to eat that, and your implication that maybe sheís strapped on the dessert feedbag one too many times is not going to win you points. Ever.
It doesnít matter what mood sheís in, donít ever ask a woman if sheís on her period. What good is that information to you if youíve been hacked to death with a meat cleaver and stored in 28 different Tupperware containers in two counties? If you think you even might want to ask this question, then the better choice will be to shape up and shut up in order to live another day.
Youíre smarter if you never ask a woman, ďAre you going to wear that?Ē Obviously sheís going to wear it or she wouldnít have put it on. Unless youíre ďProject RunwayĒ host Tim Gunn or currently designing your own line of clothing for department stores nationwide, then youíre in a bad place with this question. Take three giant steps backwards after asking, ďMother may I?Ē Do not call into question an outfit that probably took three days, four girlfriends and two different trips to the mall to put together.
Donít ever tell a woman you liked her hair better before she got it cut. If you didnít like what she made for dinner, donít tell her while youíve got the plate in front of you. Swallow any criticism you have about her pets and kids. And under no circumstances tell a woman sheís starting to look like her mother unless sheís the natural offspring of Angelina Jolie.
And hear me well on this one as there is no greater rookie error than this: Do not ever Ė not even on a bet Ė ask a woman if sheís pregnant. Ever. Any questions
April 18, 2013
Face it: Lifeís tough. At times, it just even flat out sucks. But each week itís my goal to find a small glimmer of humor in the suckage, although Iím not sure suckage is a word which may explain why I donít win a Pulitzer. Terrorists, however, make my job just nearly impossible.
When I moved to the Middle East, people thought I was nuts. They may have thought I was nuts long before that if they knew me on any level at all, but moving to the Middle East pretty much sealed the deal. They worried for my safety. Quite frankly, I think Iím probably safer here than I am on the streets or schools or malls or movie theaters in the US!
Recently, I called to find out about cancelling the service that monitors my alarm system on my house in Lake Jackson. (Donít think youíre going to pilfer anything, I didnít actually cancel it. One wrong move and LJPD will have you slapped on the hood of the car in cuffs like you were the next episode of ďCOPS.Ē) The girl on the phone asked if I didnít want to move my service to my new house. I had to explain that my new home is surrounded by a huge concrete wall, topped with razor wire and guarded by overheated, cranky military guys standing behind assault weapons. Itís kind of like celebrity houses in Hollywood! I think security on the new house is pretty much taken care of.
So I give up some personal freedoms to sleep a little sounder. If something goes bump in the night, it should be the boogieman not an explosive. At the same time, we have to believe that the boogieman is not the neighbor in the house next door or in the country across the world.
Terrorism is everywhere and it has nothing to do with a specific religion or region. There are children terrorized in homes by abusive adults or at school by bullies. The Catholics and Protestants have trouble getting along in Ireland. The Sunis and Shiites knock heads in the Middle East. The Jews seem to get a tough time from everybody, and I think the North Koreans are mad at the world. At some point, on an individual level, we all have to make a decision to be tolerant. We need to have more belly laughs than bombs, which is exactly my goal with this column!
April 11, 2013
After four years of writing this column, itís probably time to answer some of the tens of letters that have been written to me. While I appreciate that most of the feedback I get when I meet people along the way is very positive and encouraging, others choose to hide behind their electronics. And may I just say itís not really fair to encrypt your return address when sending me emails that spell out in no uncertain terms that Iím a moron. That goes for you, too, Dad.
In response to the invitation for dinner that I received via email, you didnít specify whether or not I could bring my husband and two teenagers with us. We all like Italian food, so get back to me on that and weíll get it set up.
To everyone who has sent fan mail to my dog, Buster, who fills in while Iím on vacation, Iím glad you like his columns. But next time you want to rave about how heís such a better writer than I am, please remember who has the password to the email. I read that stuff, too, you know. Let me also point out that he has not, in fact, won a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism. If he said that, heís lying. I know itís shocking and disappointing to discover that journalists lie Ö no, wait, thatís not shocking. Thatís mainstream news outlets in general. So okay, weíll stand behind the story that he won a Pulitzer.
My apologies to the woman who asked me not to write any more columns about snakes. Youíre right, two in four years probably is more than enough. Letís not empower the reptiles with too much publicity. Next thing theyíll want equal coverage under Obamacare.
Last week I got an email asking if I had really moved to the Middle East or if I was making that up so I had something new to write about. My question back is: Did you think through that question before you asked it? If I were going to invent myself into a new home, why would I willingly choose the Middle East? Is North Korea all full up? If I were going to make up a place that I moved to, Iíd be writing columns about Bora Bora or Italy or Paris in the spring, not the womenís bathrooms of Saudi Arabia!
April 4, 2013
What Iím going to say here probably isnít going to be the most popular statement Iíve ever made, but I wouldnít say it if I didnít believe there was some level of truth. Okay, so the truth is in my world which is the same place where ďellemenohpeeĒ is one letter, so please make the necessary adjustments. But, in my opinion, golf is a silly sport. I understand there is probably a portion of my readers who have now wadded up page 4 of the paper and putted it across the room into a pencil holder and labeled me a heretic. I can live with that.
Letís start with the people who actually play golf. Heís the one in the most obnoxious pair of plaid pants that can possibly be purchased without a license. These are the kind of pants that can be seen from Google Earth. What is up with this blatant disregard for decent fashion sense? Is it so the groundskeepers can find you if you get tangled in the woods looking for the ball or to make you look less appetizing to the alligators that nest in the water traps?
Beyond the clothes, the game itself is a bit silly. If itís really that much fun to hit the little ball, why not hit it a whole bunch of times a little way? Why not play with a bigger ball that you can actually find? Why are grown men playing with teas and cups and birdies? This sounds more like a garden party to me.
If playing golf isnít questionable enough, then there are the people who watch golf. Have you noticed the commentators on TV whisper when theyíre covering a tournament? Is that so they donít wake up the viewers sleeping through it at home? Watching in person, though, canít be better. With people stacked 18 deep around the hole, what are you going to see but the sunburned neck of the guy in front of you. You just do the little polite golf clap when everyone else does and follow the herd to the next hole. Okay, thatís fun?
So to be honest, golf is an excuse to be outside on the grass without pushing a mower; to have the chance to dress like you donít care how you look; and to drive a golf cart. Because thatís fun. Driving the golf cart is fun. The rest, I just donít know.
March 28, 2013
Did you know that 2013 is the Year of the Snake? This may explain why there are so many people ready to hack this year to death with a hoe. In my opinion, there are few things that deserve to be beat to death with a shovel more than a snake, but hereís your heads-up, folks: Spring is snake season. If you think Iím kidding, ask the guys over at Brazos Pipe & Steel in Freeport who had a 4í, 4Ē long rattlesnake that was 3Ē around and had 13 rattles hanging out with them early in March. Theyíll tell you!
Itís kind of hard to blame the woman in the Texarkana area who, earlier this month, poured gasoline on a snake she saw in her yard and then set it on fire in an attempt to kill it. However, she sadly missed the fact that the shovel or the hoe really is a critical step in snake-killing. Her flaming reptile; not yet dead, used its last breath to slither under her house and set it on fire! So take note: Beat the snake, hack the snake and THEN set the snake on fire.
Of course, there are two sides to every coin. Yu Feng in China saved a dying black snake (Iím baffled as to why!) and named it Long Long (I would have named it Dead Dead). In January 2010, Long Long repaid the favor one night by climbing onto Yuís bed and slapping it with his tail until he woke up. Then he slithered over to Yuís motherís bed to wake her up because her electric blanket was on fire! People all over the world proclaimed the snake a hero. I proclaim him a hack. I think the snake set the fire to begin with. Snakes are like that. You canít trust them.
Earlier this year, 800 people showed up in the Everglades to hunt Burmese pythons that have been unnaturally introduced and are killing just about everything else out there. They breed with the local pythons and probably make super pythons that are virtually indestructible. Iím sure if something isnít done about the massive constrictors, theyíll probably have nuclear capabilities by 2014.
So maybe giving snakes their own year wasnít a good idea. But be careful working in your flower beds or moving rocks. And keep the shovel and hoe handy!
March 21, 2013
I come from the land of Buc-ceeís, that magical place of pristine, spacious bathrooms. So wonderful are the Buc-cee bathrooms that their virtues are touted on billboards, and travelers go miles out of their way just to pop in to pee. Unfortunately, Iím not currently living in that world. I actually think I may have been condemned to bathroom hell. And trust me, that is no place for a woman.
Iím in Saudi Arabia, where a lot of things are strange to me, bathrooms being pretty high on that list. I canít speak for the menís bathrooms, but in the ladies ďhammam,Ē itís odd.
First of all, stalls are very tiny. You almost have to climb on top of the toilet to get the door shut, which is a feat considering all the women wear long, black abaya dresses. Okay, so you get the door shut, and then you have to deal with that dress. Iím not sure if the protocol is to take it off and hang it on the door hook or flip it up over your head or just wad it up under your arms. So take note: dress up, pants down. Practice at home.
To complicate the juggling act, the floors are always really wet. Typically, stalls are equipped with this spray nozzle thing. Back home, I had one on the kitchen sink to spray dishes. We had one in the bathtub to wash the dog. Iím hesitant to wonder why itís in the bathroom stall, but from the amount of water on the floor, it obviously gets used. Iíve tried to think through in my head how one would go about taking a tiny, area-specific mini-shower in this cramped space without drowning completely, all the while managing the dress up-pants down balancing thing. Some bathrooms are serious about it, too, because toilet paper is available only at the door when you walk in, so think ahead or be ready to spritz. Or maybe you could drip dry while you struggle over what to do.
Through all that, though, you have to be grateful if thereís actually a toilet in your stall. There are bathrooms where target shooting isnít just for boys. In which case, maybe you flip your pants over your head with the dress and the sprayer is to wash off your shoes. Or maybe you just learn to hold it until you get home. To the States!
March 14, 2013
Overall, Iím a pretty trusting person. If you tell me something, Iím likely to believe you. Call me gullible, but I donít have to see gravity to believe itís going to stick me to the earth. I want to believe in the goodness of all mankind and that what is said is true. So to whoever is putting the ďNo IronĒ tags inside my husbandís shirts, I can only wish that a blind man tweezes every hair off your body in payment for your lies.
Letís start with the shocking reality that I actually plugged the iron into the wall with the intent to iron the shirts. Or anything at all, for that matter. As far as Iím concerned, ironing and dry cleaning are deal breakers when it comes to clothes. ďHang to dryĒ is really pushing the limits of my relationship with a garment. But my husband doesnít have a job like mine that can be done while wearing pajamas or a favorite Eddie Bauer t-shirt. He wears ďdress shirtsĒ and thinks itís probably more professional if theyíre not a wrinkled, wadded up mess. So I decided to help him out and iron. Iím good like that.
So about half way through ironing the first shirt, I see the tag in the collar that says, ďNo Iron.Ē Really? Who are they kidding?! As if it wasnít bad enough that Iím ironing, now Iím ironing a no iron shirt! The ultimate insult to injury! Somewhere there were factory workers in Bangladesh or Thailand or Irkgackistan cackling about how theyíd gotten the last laugh on that one, donít you know.
But it doesnít even end there. Evil was surely woven into every fiber of this shirt, because no sooner had I ironed it than the wrinkles all jumped right back in. Not only do you have to iron the no iron shirt, but you have to steam it, too. Iím not saying you can just make the iron hiss in the direction of the shirt. No, it has to be taken to the rim of an active volcano, set next to Old Faithful in Yellowstone, or left on a street in Texas after an August rainstorm. Either that or a full on wrinkle exorcism was going to have to be performed to call out the demon wrinkles once and for all.
In the end, it just goes to prove that, truly, no good deed goes unpunished.